The COVID-19 outbreak resulted in uncertainty in the admissions and enrollment processes of independent schools. The Enrollment Management Association (EMA) analyzed the empirical application data submitted via the Standard Application Online (SAO) over the past five years and compared that historical trend to the 2020 data, focusing on March through August.
The results showed that overall, more families applied to independent schools in 2020 than in 2019. Although there were fewer applications from March to May in 2020 as compared to 2019, applications increased from June to August.
The application trend was then analyzed at a variety of subgroup levels as well, including: domestic vs. international applicants, applications to day schools vs. boarding schools, applications with financial aid requests vs. without, applications from public school students vs. independent school students, and applications from different ethnic groups. Below is a list of findings at the subgroup level from June to August 2020 compared to 2019:
- Domestic applications increased, but international applications decreased.
- Applications to day schools and boarding schools both increased. While there were more applications to boarding schools, the percent increase in day school applications from June through August was much larger than for boarding schools.
- Applications with financial aid requests and those assuming full pay both increased. There were more full pay applications.
- Applications from public school students and private school students both increased. There were more applicants from public schools, especially toward the end of summer.
- At the ethnic group level, the Asian group did not exhibit large variations, whereas applications from white, multiracial, African American, and Latino/Mexican American groups all went up substantially.
Still, it might be premature to conclude that independent school enrollment will increase. Other factors, such as families’ ability to pay tuition given changes in their financial situations and the loss of international students, will have impacts on enrollment. We need to continue to monitor how things unfold in the new school year.
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